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A video creation checklist

A video creation checklist

Want to create great videos for learning & development? Barbara Thompson takes you through the essentials to remember, and the pitfalls to avoid, before you shout ‘lights, camera, action’!

When I was younger I remember seeing films where families sit down together full of anticipation to view home made videos. It looked like quite a fun experience, typically anchored around a social occasion, such as Christmas, yet appeared to me to be a technically complex setup too. Fast forward a couple of decades and a device as small as five inches can produce reasonable quality video within seconds. The sands have shifted, everyone now has the capacity to create a pretty good quality film, including learning and development teams. However, we still need to respect the basic rules of video making. So here are a few things to think about when creating video for learning and development:

What’s the purpose?

Instead of starting with the premise of creating a video, think about what the intended outcome is FIRST.  Historically, videos have been used by corporate communications to convey very formal messages, both internally and externally. That still has a place, but the way the workforce engages is very different to that tone. Videos are SO prevalent in our lives – from advertising and social media to family messages and how-to videos. Each of these use nuanced techniques to engage, inspire, delight and provide knowledge.

Style and setting

Think about if your corporate comms teams, for example, used hand-held, grainy amateur-style footage videos (a la The Blair Witch Project) to convey quarterly business results – I’d like to see that, wouldn’t you?! Conversely, if you wanted to inspire, then using a teleprompter and stiff, stilted monologue simply won’t cut the mustard. To inspire, you could film someone in a place that is inspiring to them, but think beyond a typical meeting room with white walls which is devoid of any character.

Some other things to consider

  • Will the videos be viewed in a group and/or individually?
  • In the workplace, videos can inspire, educate and convince. Therefore, think about what you are trying to achieve as it will keep the scripting process honest. Sense-check that feeling in a paper script before you invest time working on the production.
  • There’s a wealth of video creation approaches you can use – from user generated content at one end to partnering with a video production agency for scripted drama at the other end. Each has their own merit. Time and budget will play a large part in the decision making but, as Simon Sinek has popularised, ‘start with the why’.
  • Will the videos be standalone or as part of a suite of resources?  
  • How will it be rolled out?  Here’s a few channels you could consider:
    • Pushing video to laptops as a looping film that comes on when it’s in sleep mode (in this scenario it needs to be very short).
    • Show on centrally placed plasma screens.
    • Host on key web pages.
    • Show in a town hall event.
  • Does it have to be reserved for internal usage? Perhaps it can be part of your staff sourcing strategy, and if appropriate shown in universities when engaging in ‘milk rounds’.

Here’s one I made earlier…

Here’s an example of how I used video in an integrated way. I led a global initiative supporting a former company’s diversity and inclusion agenda (D&I). Specifically I used a series of video vignettes (90 seconds to two minutes in length) as a central vehicle for dialogue. D&I is a notoriously difficult subject and documentation simply wouldn’t have delivered key concepts in a way that didn’t come across as patronising.. Immersing the viewer in a piece of drama surrounding unconscious bias at play allowed us to do two things:

    • Give line managers a disarming way to flush out biases, and the confidence to facilitate team conversations – we provided toolkits to assist them.
    • The REAL learning took place with the dialogue. Appreciating others views, understanding how you respond to situations and thinking about formative years was powerful. The upshot was that using video allowed dynamic conversations, learning and reflection to take place.

The essentials in a nutshell

Finally, if you take nothing else from this blog post, here are four key points to set you up for success:

  1. Be authentic.
    Your audience will spot if you are trying to pull the wool over their eyes, such as filming in surroundings not congruent with theirs e.g. Apple’s offices or in a snazzy champagne bar.
  2. Ensure that your ‘characters’ resemble your workforce, think about diversity.
    It’s so overdone and frankly incredibly boring when using actors/actresses who look as if they stepped off the catwalk. I hear this source of irritation a lot when I run focus groups and ask people what they dislike about corporate videos.
  3. Don’t shoehorn everything into a video, consider it like a precious ingredient.
    Put simply, if you overcook it, you will lose its nutritional value!
  4. You don’t need to be super technical to know how to create a video  BUT there are some things you should absolutely consider:
  • Invest in some tools, such as a tripod and microphone.
  • Be familiar with the underpinning principles of the rule of thirds – a technique of breaking down an image into thirds, vertically and horizontally.
  • Appreciate what constitutes good lighting and good audio quality. If you don’t then it will render all your good work redundant because people will forgive many things but not these aspects.

Have fun with it and good luck!

Barbara Thompson, Learning Innovation Consultant.


Prior to consulting, Barbara spent her career working in global, geographically dispersed organisations delivering learning transformation which was international in nature, yet local in flavour. Her experience spans start up business to large geographically dispersed matrix organisations.

Barbara’s mix of creativity and analysis enables her to deliver high impact resources which are useful, intuitive and engaging, encouraging user recommendations and adoption. To find out more, read her blog or connect with Barbara on Twitter or LinkedIn